Even though it's technically spring next week, it’s still freezing cold and currently snowing in Chicago - ugh! I'm definitely ready for the sun to make a permanent appearance, however, there are some perks to these chilly months that I plan to enjoy until then. The aromas that permeate our winter kitchens are cozy, delicious and surprisingly healthy! In fact, there have been many medical studies completed that prove the health benefits of 'winter' herbs and spices. Even adding as little as ¼ teaspoon of these spices to your coffee, oatmeal, yogurt or pancakes is a great start to properly fueling your body with necessary micro-nutrients. I’ve listed a few of my favorites below. Check them out and comment to let me know what you think!
Vanilla is one of the sweeter tasting cold weather flavors. It also happens to be my personal favorite - I add a little bit of all-natural vanilla extract to every waffle, pancake and donut recipe on my blog! Vanilla is an antioxidant, which means it acts as a protector against free radical agents in your body. Vanilla is also known to be an antibacterial and reduce inflammation. Oh, and I couldn't not feature a picture of vanilla bean ice cream. Call me crazy, but it's delicious even when it's cold!
Cinnamon is a distinctive spice made from the inner bark of trees. It’s incredibly popular due to its flavor and the wide range of health benefits it offers. For example, cinnamon is antioxidant heavy, contains anti-inflammatory properties, and has been linked to the reduction of blood sugar levels. If you don’t have time to cook or bake with cinnamon, just sprinkle some on the top of your coffee or protein smoothie. The health perks are 100% worth it; the flavor is just the icing on top of the cake.
Nutmeg isn’t quite as popular as cinnamon, but it shouldn’t be counted out of the mix! Nutmeg has historically been used to reduce inflammation and provide digestive relief. It can also act as a natural sedative and is regarded as a sleep aid (with a glass of warm milk!) Last but not least, nutmeg powder is good for your skin! If you’re in the need of a regular DIY facial mask to lessen blackheads and minimize scarring, give it a try. Here are a few facial mask recommendations to experiment with (Exfoliating Scrub by Crunchy Betty and Facial Mask by Missy Sue)
Cloves are a product of evergreen rainforest trees – who would have thought? Clove spice contains healthy minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Clove spice also provides our bodies with vitamin-A, vitamin-K, and vitamin-C (plus several more micronutrients!) Perhaps the most interesting use for clove spice is as a mouthwash! Believe it or not, cloves have traditionally been used as antiseptic in dentistry. Here is a fun DIY recipe from Hello Glow – it mixes cloves with mint and essential oils for a refreshing, all natural taste.
Cumin has a strong taste and an even stronger aroma! It’s often used in small doses, but those small doses can do a lot of good. Cumin is a source of iron, magnesium and potassium. It is a natural source of energy and contains numerous vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin C!) Cumin can be used in face masks, creams, cooking and more, but with this cold Chicago weather … curling up in a comfy sweater with a pinch of cumin seeds sprinkled in my soup is the most perfect use.